The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a scheduled meeting of its Central Executive Committee from 24-26 February 2014, at COSATU House, Braamfontein, attended by the National Office Bearers, leaders of affiliated unions and provincial structures.
The meeting reasserted the federation's unity and cohesion. Media reports before and during the CEC meeting were full of forebodings such as “The coming Cosatu quake” (Daily Maverick) and “Federation torn apart” (Business Day). In the event, although there was robust and frank discussion, the federation of Elijah Barayi remains united and strong. There were no walk-outs or fist-fights, but a serious and comradely discussion about some of the issues confronting the workers' movement.
Among the many items discussed were:
1. ANC Election campaign
COSATU remains fully committed to support and mobilise its members for the African National Congress Election Campaign and ensure another overwhelming victory on 7 May 2014.
Phase 3 of the COSATU 2014 National and Provincial Government Elections Programme is now well under way, under the theme Mayihlome - Why Workers should Vote ANC. We have already:
- Set up Operation Centres/War Rooms at National and Provincial levels,
- Released officials and shop stewards to work full time on elections,
- Deployed NOBs and CEC members for mobilisation work,
- Produced and distributed materials to workplaces, including a popular booklet on Why Workers should Vote ANC
The affiliates confirmed that they will pay the Election levy, as agreed.
2. ANC Election manifesto
COSATU and NOBs of nearly all affiliates participated in the process to draw up the ANC Election Manifesto, and were given much more access than in previous years.
It was by no means a perfect manifesto. Some of the issues we raised were adopted; others not. Overall however the CEC endorsed the manifesto, which took on board many of the demands of the working class and introduced key commitments we agree with. In particular we welcome that the ANC undertakes to:
- Ensure that government will procure at least 75% of its goods locally,
- Strengthen the enforcement of the Employment Equity Act,
- Ensure that collective bargaining takes place and is strengthened,
- Investigate the modalities of a national minimum wage, and
- Enforce legislation to eliminate abusive work practises in atypical work and labour broking and improve the capacity of the Department of Labour to enforce this and all other labour laws.
- A shift away from the willing-buyer and willing-seller principle to the just-and-equitable principle in line with Section 25 of the constitution that also allows government to expropriate land in the interest of land reform.
3. Section 77 on Non-trading Public Holidays on 1 May and 7 May
COSATU has for many years demanded that commemorative public holidays and election days should be declared as Non-trading Public Holidays, in order to ensure that all workers, especially those in such sectors as farming and retail, should be free to join commemorative events and to vote, without fear of disciplinary charges from their employers for taking time off work.
COSATU has submitted notices under Section 77 of the Labour Relations Act to protect workers who refuse to work on 1 May and/or 7 May 2014.
The CEC made a specific call for all workers to vote on 7 May, excpet those who have to work on that day and have been given special vote and help to achieve an overwhelming victory for its ANC allies.
4. Preparations towards May Day
The 2014 May Day rallies follow recommendations by the September 2013 CEC meeting which were adopted by a National Organisers Forum on 22 January 2014, which proposed the following plan of action, which was agreed by this CEC:
• There will be 27 rallies, with some provinces decentralised while others will have single centralised rallies, due to different dynamics and experiences.
• The main/national 2014 May Day Rally will be in Polokwane, Limpopo, at Peter Mokaba Stadium.
• May Day celebrations must be synchronised with the ANC's National and Provincial Elections campaign, and in particular the Siyanqoba rallies on 3 May.
• The build-up programmes towards the workers day celebration will run concurrently with Phases 3 and 4 of the Elections mobilisation programme.
• The same task teams set up to run the Elections campaigns will be used for implementation of the May Day programme.
• The War Rooms/Operation Centres will also be used to coordinate the mobilisation programmes for May Day rallies and to Vote ANC.
• Proposed Theme: United action for service to defend and safeguard workers' unity and rights.
5. Section 77 on Lula Moment
The meeting was informed of slow progress on the Section 77 submission on economic transformation (the Lula Moment) through Nedlac. It was agreed that affiliates have to prioritise their attendance at Nedlac meetings. This is a vital battleground in the class struggle and must be taken more seriously.
There will be discussion as to whether to separate the main issues and submit Section 77s on more specific areas.
6. Proudly SA
COSATU has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Proudly South African Campaign, and the federation and its affiliates have tried to lead by example by procuring locally manufactured goods. There was however concern that some affiliates are still buying imported good and agreed that more needs to be done to ensure full compliance with our policy.
7. Independent Newspapers
COSATU has noted the plans by the new owners of Independent Newspapers, Sekunjalo, to make “changes to management, staff, the structure of the business, its growth strategies and targets, and even its editorial orientation”.
The federation fully agrees with its commitment to the transformation of the media, so that it better reflects the lives and views of the majority of the people, and their statement that “a small but very privileged and racially definable minority still controls the tools of public discourse, including the bulk of private commercial media and virtually all the mainstream newspaper groups. The private commercial media represents this minority's economic and political interests, and presents their world view as the unchallengeable norm, promoting their narrative of South Africa as the dominant, indeed the sole, narrative.”
In particular COSATU welcomes the agreement to expand coverage of labour issues which has already led to a regular weekly column in Business Report. The CEC urged affiliates to take full advantage of this opportunity by submitting regular articles on the key issues of the day.
COSATU has responded to yesterday's budget speech which is will be circulated separately. We shall be meeting the Minister of Finance at Nedlac tomorrow.
We welcome the increase in the overall budget despite the constraints government faces due to the slow domestic, and global, economic growth. We particularly welcome an increase in the infrastructure budget by R847 billion over a period of three years. This will go a long way in catalysing economic growth and job creation.
While we welcomed the Minster's announcement that there will be an increase in infrastructure spending, we are surprised that the road infrastructure has not been specifically mentioned.
We had expected the Minister to make a bold announcement on the funding of the road infrastructure in the light of the failure of the unjust e-tolling system. The Minister has announced an increase in fuel levy and we repeat our call to move away from the iniquitous ‘user-pays' principle to fund the road infrastructure, which is a basic public service and not a commodity.
9. NUMSA‘s Special National Congress Declaration and Resolutions in opposition to COSATU policies
As instructed by the Special CEC on 10th February 2014 NOBs wrote to NUMSA leaders asking them to give reasons in writing why they should not be suspended or expelled from the federation, in view of NUMSA's Special Congress declaration and resolutions which were diametrically opposed to the federation's policies and resolutions, NUMSA had responded, with a request for more time to respond.
The meeting agreed to give the union a further seven days from today and there will then be a special CEC meeting to discuss their response.
10. Disruptive activities
The CEC also discussed reports of disruptive and disrespectful activities by members of various affiliates. It was agreed that COSATU NOBs and leaders of the affiliates involved must speak to their provincial leaders and members to explain what their role is - that COSATU is not a federal structure and that national policy decisions are binding on all provincial, regional and local structures.
The CEC further reaffirmed its condemnation of public statements and activities by provincial structures against CEC decisions, called for these issues only to be discussed internally and ordered leaders to enforce this decision.
11. Special National Congress
Following the discussion at the Special CEC of 10 February on the timing, finances and state of readiness for a Special National Congress (SNC) and its decision to decline the request by nine affiliates for such a SNC, the CEC agreed that the president be given the opportunity to give hs final decion at a special CEC
12. Facilitated process
The facilitated process intended to achieve unity and cohesion by Charles Nupen and Petros Mashishi is continuing.
13. Disciplinary action
Disciplnary processes against the suspended General Secretary and a COSATU staff member and the pressing of charges are proceeding.
The meeting reaffirmed COSATU's historic adherence to the principle of one-union-one-industry and agreed to take action against unions which have been ‘poaching' members of other unions in other sectors, a problem which has festered for many years. It was agreed that all affiliates must identlify those members whom they believe have been poached and own up to any they have poached. There needs to be clarity over each affiliates' scope and set up a process for NOBs to intervene to deal with the matter, and a report will be tabled at the next CEC.
Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
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